- My LS
Arrest and detention of the lawyer Leanid Sudalenka in Belarus
Who we wrote to
The president of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko.
We wrote the letter jointly with Lawyers for Lawyers, a Dutch foundation that seeks to promote the proper functioning of the rule of law by pursuing freedom and independence of the legal profession.
What's the issue
We're concerned about the arrest and detention of the Belarusian lawyer Leanid Sudalenka.
Leanid Sudalenka is the chairman of the Homiel branch of the Viasna Human Rights Centre and 2018 winner of the French Republic’s “Liberty- Equality-Fraternity Prize” for his human rights work.
On 5 January 2021, officers searched his offices in connection with a criminal case that was opened in December 2020 against opposition activist Uladzimir Nepomniashchykh. Leanid Sudalenka was due to appear as a witness in this case.
It's alleged that 304 items were seized during the search, including case files and his laptop and bank cards. The Belarusian authorities have also searched his apartment where his work computer and another two bank cards were taken.
Following the searches he was taken for an interrogation where it has been reported that the questioning was primarily focussed about the legal advice provided to those detained, fined and arrested during the post-electoral protests in Homiel. After this interrogation, he was released.
On 18 January 2021, Leanid Sudalenka was detained by the Investigative Committee of Belarus as part of a criminal case which alleged he was "organising or preparing actions that grossly violate the public order or taking active part in such actions". For many hours he was denied access to his lawyer.
On 29 January 2020, Viasna Human Rights Centre reported that he had been charged with "financing actions that grossly violate the public order". He is currently in custody in a pre-trial detention centre in Homiel.
What we asked for
We urged the relevant authorities in Belarus to:
- release Leanid Sudalenka and drop all charges against him unless credible evidence is presented in proceedings that respect fair trial guarantees
- put an end to all acts of harassment against him, including interrogation and detention without having been provided with adequate information regarding his status in any criminal case and without having been charged with a particular offence
- guarantee that all lawyers in Belarus can carry out their legitimate professional activities without threat, intimidation, hindrance, harassment, improper interference or reprisals
What we've previously said
We've been monitoring the situation in Belarus and have published previous letters:
- on 24 September 2020 we wrote about the arrest and detention of lawyers Maksim Znak and Illia Salei in Belarus
- on 20 August 2020 we wrote about the 6,000 citizens of Belarus who have been arrested and detained for taking part in largely peaceful protests, of which many did not have access to a legal representative of their own choosing, or to any legal representative
- on 3 November 2020 we wrote about the revocation of the licences to practice of the Belarussian lawyers Aliaksandr Pylchanka and Yulia Levanchuk